“And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld.”
One time only, and in the year of its 90th anniversary, you can see the summit of Hollywood hocus pocus not only in a movie theatre but projected on film with a film projector! And that’s only appropriate when we consider that the pioneering effects of 1933’s King Kong (obviously the stuff from which its iconic status is fashioned) were accomplished through the miraculous gift of cellulose film, capable of producing newfound wonders through complex combinations of rear-projection, compositing, matte painting (traditional and hanging), skillful miniature work and Willis O’Brien’s medium-shifting stop-motion special effects, without which Kong would be a man in a monkey suit and King Kong would be charming, but possibly unmemorable. A long, long time ago it was understood that movies are fundamentally a magic trick reproducing life at 24 frames a second, and that’s a principle Kong totally embodies. He is the illusion of life.
That tactility in the team’s creative effort should reflect even when showing now. In fact, with grain crackling from behind the flicker of a projector’s beam, it should be impossible not to find marvelous. The 16mm print which enables this showing comes courtesy of collector Marco Pellis, and thanks be to Paul Blom and this year’s Horrorfest for arranging not only this, but a host of seasonal scares. Attractions already shown at this year’s fest include Shark Exorcist (which is *not* the funny kind of bad, it’s just a flat-out horrible time), a special showing of Jean Epstein’s brilliant 1928 The Fall of the House of Usher (the enigmatic silent tone poem was accompanied by a live soundtrack performance from the Makabra Ensemble) and still to come, a closing night screening of Cape Town’s own cult freak-out Fried Barry, with director Ryan Kruger in attendance. Halloween night features, customarily, a selection of sinister shorts. If you were shivering with anticipation for this year’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, we’re sorry to say that starship has sailed. You can console yourself with the fest’s streaming library (including ten hours’ worth of global short films).
For our money though, with an honorable mention to The Fall of the House of Usher, King Kong on 16mm is an unbeatable prospect, not only a great film but a great choice for a rerelease; its billowing imagination set to life in the grand and graceful fashion of classic Hollywood. Be forewarned that time has touched its politics as well as its effects, but in all King Kong bears the weight of its 90 years remarkably well. As we put it in our Kongathon: “…nothing in the film is ‘real’, it’s better than real, it’s the stuff from which movies are made. It’s dreamy black and white, not matter-of-fact colour. It’s melodrama that real life is too worn to indulge in. It’s sweeping adventures that nobody with a brain would get themselves into, and which nobody would be able to get out of, period. It’s beasties that captivate and yet have a right to squirm with the fingerprints of their stop-motion animators because we’re indulging a fantasy.”
A 16mm showing? You’re not likely to find another chance to indulge in that any time soon. Go. Book for the 5th of November here.